Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1 Chicken, 17 Healthy Meals, $26 Bucks, No Mayo

The stretchability of a whole chicken is a frequently discussed topic among food and frugality bloggers. It’s commonly accepted that a single fowl will feed a family of 11 for weeks, years - even millennia. Even after 20 months of keeping CHG, I’m constantly gobsmacked by how moms and dads can create dinner after dinner from the same bird.

Here’s the thing: sometimes, those dinners aren’t the healthiest meals in the world. There tend to be a lot of quesadillas and casseroles whenever these type of posts pop up, not to mention chicken salads drenched with full-fat mayo. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this whatsoever (except the mayo - blech), but I wanted to see if I could put a healthier spin on it.

In a sentence: I wanted to find out if it was possible to create a gaggle of inexpensive, lower-fat meals with the leftovers from one big ol’ chicken.

Here were my rules:

  • The budget – for EVERYTHING - was $25.
  • I had to use as much food already in my pantry as possible. (Which accounted for a lot, and saved me mad dough in the long run.)
  • Each meal had to feed at least two people (The Boyfriend and me).
  • Bonus points for leftovers.
  • The chicken had to be used up within a few days, so it wouldn’t go bad.
  • The meals had to have reasonable variety, preferably from a range of cuisines. It couldn’t be Chicken with Spaghetti on Day 1, then Chicken with Penne on Day 2.
  • The meals had to have very little added fat, since the leftover chicken would provide most of it.
And? Victory, for the most part. I ended up cooking five distinct, delicious, largely healthy dinners with PLENTY of leftovers. And miracle of miracles, there were no duds in the group. (Thanks, online reviewers!)

However, I did go $0.86 over budget. I’m okay with that, though. Between what we consumed each night and ate for lunch the next day, that $25.86 made 17 full meals, which works out to $1.52 each. That’s less than a cup of Starbucks coffee, so … aces.

What follows is the menu breakdown, complete with pictures and links to four of the five recipes. The last, a Cook’s Illustrated curry dish, isn’t online, so I transcribed it at the very bottom of this post. There’s also a master grocery list, so y’all can see the price breakdown of everything.

With that said, let’s get started with introductions: Charles, these are the CHG readers. CHG readers, this is Charles. He’s my chicken. He’s 6.99 lbs.

He will not look like this for long.

Day 1
Marcella Hazan’s Lemon Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
2 servings
Chicken consumed: 10 ounces

We kicked everything off with Marcella’s Lemon Roasted Chicken. It’s been featured on the blog before, with good reason. In a world of dry, lame-o poultry, it is the Queen Mum of moist, flavorful goodness. Plus, when you add a few thick-cut carrots and quartered (unpeeled) red potatoes to the pan before it starts cooking, it becomes a whole meal. (Seriously, that’s all you have to do.) Together, The Boyfriend and I polished off all the vegetables and 10 ounces of chicken (five ounces each) for a Sunday night meal.

Afterwards, we stripped the chicken bare. Nude. Butt-naked. There was nothing left on that carcass but skin and gristle. It was a little hyena-like, honestly, but fun nonetheless. In total, our booty came to 2 pounds, 4 ounces of pure, straight-up leftover meat, mostly from the breast. Here’s a shot of the carnage.

If I had half a brain, I would have saved Charles’ bones to make stock. But I forgot.

To quote the bard, “Duh.”

Day 2
Cooking Light’s Chicken Picadillo with Rice and Black Beans
3 servings
Leftover chicken consumed: 1 pound

(Note: The experiment almost ended here, since I didn’t go grocery shopping in time for Day 2. Fortunately, for this particular recipe, everything was in my pantry already. [Woo hoo!])

Going in, I had mid-level expectations for Chicken Picadillo, and was super-pleasantly surprised by the results. All in all, it’s supremely easy to cook, and a nice change from the average Tex-Mex dish. Ground chicken, salsa, raisins, and almonds make up the main ingredients, but a dash of cinnamon ties it all together, giving everything a warm, lovely flavor. We ate it with plain rice and mashed black beans (to prepare: heat in pot, mash with masher, add salt and pepa), and used the leftovers to create a chicken/lettuce/salsa wrap the next day for lunch. Good times.

Day 3
White Chicken Chili
2-3 servings
Leftover chicken consumed: 1-1/2 cups

This tangy, mild, ridiculously simple chili was The Boyfriend’s favorite dish of the bunch. (He is the Chili King. He can do anything.) He slurped a bowl in record time, scarfed leftovers for lunch the next day, and openly wept when I told him he had finished it all. Poor guy.

The key to keeping this dish low-fat is the beans. By lightly mashing them, you create a thicker chili consistency, and don’t have to add as much cheese. FYI: If you like your chilis a little spicier, the heat is eminently adjustable here: just include the jalapeno seeds OR add another pepper altogether.

Day 4
Food Network’s Sesame Noodles with Chicken
5 servings
Chicken consumed: 1 cup

Three days into this thing, and we were barely halfway through Charles’ leftover meat. That started to change here.

It must be known: I loooooooove noodles. I luff them. I lurve them. I want to kiss them, but they keep falling through my fingers. (Ooo … deep.) Naturally then, this dish from Food Network was my favorite of the experiment. It’s a cross between Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Noodles and this Noodle Salad from Cooking Light, with just a little more tang. The whole shebang is a tad higher in fat than the experiment’s others (see: butter, peanut), but it’s the healthy, protein-y kind, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

One note: I substituted a pitted, sliced regular cucumber for the Kirby. No harm, no foul, and it worked just fine.

Day 5
Cook’s Illustrated’s Chicken Curry in a Hurry
(recipe at bottom of post)
4 servings
Chicken consumed: 2 cups

Finally, we had reached the end. Charles was nearly tapped by Day 5, though perhaps surprisingly, we weren’t getting tired of chicken in the least.

It’s a good thing, then, we went with Curry in a Hurry. Served with a side of brown rice, it’s a fast, fantastic, Indian-inspired weeknight meal that will absolutely use up the last of any leftover chicken. Plus, it’s a lot of frigging food. CI claims it serves four people, it’s really more like five or six. Maybe eight or nine if you’re elves.

Note: we skipped the peas because they represent the oppression of the worker by the bourgeoisie, and can only be freed through shared profit and community-wide effort. (Oh wait – that’s not right. Actually, I just forgot to buy them. It didn’t make a difference.)


And that, my friends, is it. We're full. The chicken's gone. The experiment worked.

Here’s our grocery list (just like we promised!), plus the curry recipe, should you be into it. Comments and questions are welcome, and I'd love to hear what y'all have done with a whole chicken. Enjoy!


(* means I already had it in my pantry or fridge)

1 7-lb Oven Stuffer Roaster chicken: $6.92
1 lb thick carrots: $0.67
1-1/2 lbs red or Yukon gold potatoes: $1.42
2 lemons: $0.80
*1 or 2 tablespoons salt: $0.04
*3 teaspoons olive oil: $0.11
*2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil: $0.36
*2 tablespoons vegetable oil: $0.18
*2-1/2 medium onions: $0.30
*9 garlic cloves: $0.30
*2-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin: $0.05
*1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon: $0.01
*1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning: $0.02
*Pinch ground cloves: $0.01
*1 teaspoon crushed red pepper: $0.05
*1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder: $0.07
*1 cup bottled salsa: $0.99
*1/3 cup golden raisins: $0.79
*1/4 cup raisins: $0.42
*1/4 cup slivered almonds: $0.73
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts: $0.35
1 large bunch fresh cilantro: $0.99
*1 14-oz can black beans: $0.67
1 can large white beans: $1.39
*1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas: $0.67
*1-2/3 cup uncooked brown rice: $0.95
1 seeded jalapeño pepper: $0.25
1 cucumber: $0.80
6 scallions: $0.67
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger: $0.32
1 can (4-ounce) chopped green chilies: $1.49
*2 cups chicken broth: $0.60
*1 pound spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles: $0.80
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter: $0.21
*1/4 cup soy sauce: $0.38
*2 tablespoons dark brown sugar: $0.06
*1 tablespoon rice vinegar: $0.24
*1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (we used low-fat, and it was okay): $0.28
*1/2 cup grated low-fat Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese: $0.50
TOTAL: $25.86


Cook’s Illustrated’s Chicken Curry in a Hurry
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder (mine is hot, so I only use ½)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
½ cup water
2 cups shredded of thinly sliced cooked chicken
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas (I left this out, but please use)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (we used low-fat, and it was okay)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1. BUILD CURRY BASE: Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. ADD WATER, MEAT, VEGETABLES, AND COOK: Stir in water, meat, chickpeas, peas, and raisins. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. GARNISH AND SERVE: Off heat, stir in yogurt and cilantro and serve. Over brown rice is a good option.

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Michele said...

you are my hero. my HERO. i am bowing - you just can't see me

Alex said...

I think this is your best blog post EVER.
P.S. I really enjoyed the quinoa soup.

Her Royal Highness said...

Stretching chicken is a long-time frugally honored practice. And yes, you SHOULD have saved Charles' bones for stock. BAD! BAD FRUGAL PERSON!

There's tons of other sites on the web that give even more recipes to add to the ones here - just google "rubber chicken recipe" or "stretch chicken recipe". Voila. Even I, myself, have written an article on how to properly stretch a chicken.

Marcia said...

Okay, this post was absolutely awesome. I can't believe it. It's, grocery list, breakdown of cost...AND nicely going around the globe with cuisine, which I like very much.

I must try to do the same the next time I roast a chicken (though ours are usually about half that size).

Anonymous said...

I love you..healthy low, fat, and on a budget. You are my hero also..and you just planned next week.

Kris said...

AUGH! You guys, that's awesome. Thank you times ten, and let me know how everything comes out.

(Oh! And if I had remembered to buy broccoli, I was thinking of going with calzones for one of the meals. It's definitely a possibility...)

TC said... guys say it's OK to keep a chicken in the food rotation/in the fridge for five days without worrying that it's gone bad? I've always thought three...But if I can stretch it to five, WOOHOO!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Destined to be a winning post!

I've been cheating on my chicken plan. I figured out that my corner grocery marks its rotisserie chickens to $2.49 after 7 pm, even if they came out of the roaster an hour before.

I have a lot of cheap chicken meals in my future!

Teresa said...

Okay, so this is my first time on this website, therefore my first time reading your blog.
Let me say it was fun to read, as well as very informative. I don't think any of the recipes sounded like something I would hate. I am even encouraged to roast a whole chicken and pick it clean at least this once. (I am strictly a boneless skinless chicken breast or ground turkey person usually)
Thank you so much and I look forward to reading more blogs in the future.

Torey said...

This is absolutely amazing. I'm totally inspired to try this and the recipes look delicious. I love your blog.

TKTC said...

I love this post and the site looks GREAT!!!

Just another SAHM said...

I bet you won't forget to make stock from the bones next time. lol
I think you did a fabulous job & I love that you went beyond the usual 'cream of soup' casserole (etc...) for your chicken meals.
That white chicken chili looks wonderful & we'll definitely be trying that the next time I have leftovers.
Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Eliza said...

This is a *great* experiment. So intrigued to try to duplicate it! Thanks so much :)

Lindsey said...

What GORGEOUS blog is this I am reading???? I LOVE the redesign! And seriously lady? This post. Brilliant. Genius. Inspiring.

I fully intend to recreate this entire post with all the recipes, but only AFTER next week's Nola to Austin move- currently sticking to some nonsense about trying to eat everything in my kitchen without buying anything new. Harumph.

But kudos, and I will let you know how it turns out!

Anonymous said...

thought you should know that workers (who are the proletariat) are actually controlled by the bourgeoisie.

CJ said...

Bought a couple of turkeys on sale during Thanksgiving seson an popped them in the deep freeze.
We thawed one out and roasted it on Sunday. Your post came just in time for more inspiration!
Sunday- roast turkey and the standard fixin's
Monday- carcass into the pot for stock/turkey cottage pies with extra veggies, mashed potato topping and light grating of parmesan cheese
Tues.- turkey enchiladas
Wed.- turkey in white cream sauce with carmelized onions and sauteed portabello mushrooms over rotini pasta
Here's where you inspiration kicked in-
Made the chicken chili with turkey (of course)
and now have a big batch of broth left for soups!!!
I think I'm going to freeze the rest of the turkey in some stock (to prevent freezer burn) and save for another week.
We cook this way a lot but seems like turkeys and hams really stretch out for meals.
Thanks again for the GTEAT ideas.

Michelle said...

WOW! Great blog.
Let me know if you ever do email subscriptions (I never get around to a reader).

Christy said...

Wow! I am totally impressed. I love this entire post. Thanks so much!

Jeff S. said...

Wow. Very impressive, K. Even a lazy guy like me, addicted to bad food and generally unimpressed by chicken, can get excited about a post like this. You made a grocery list? What are you, applying for sainthood?

Amy K. said...

Ooh, I will have to try that chili. We have a chicken in the fridge, defrosting right now, and I love the inspiration, thank you!

For Valentine's day we roasted a duck, per Julia Child's recipe from "The way to Cook". The next day, we had the same meal, round 2 (leftover meat, leftover roast potatoes, leftover salad. Not as romantic, but pragmatic :-)

Day 3: Biscuits and gravy with shreddy duck parts. I saved the bones and giblets for gravy, and used the neck meat and cooked giblets in this "mystery meat" dish. Feel free to "eew," it was an experiment. I loved it.

Day 4 Duck Fried Rice

Day 5 Risotto, a "cheater" meal made with the stock. I added toasted pine nuts, delicious!

Still have some stock left over, and a meal worth of the fried rice.

Rachel B. said...

Thanks SO MUCH for this post! I made the lemon chicken tonight (throwing in some rosemary smushed about in olive oil, too, since that's the way I like my taters), and look forward to trying some of the other chicken recipes later this week. And yes, this is indeed the best way to roast a chicken. I've never made one so delicious before.

Kris said...

TC - Er, actually, that's a good question. I've never had a problem stretching it to four or five days, but, um, anyone out there work for the FDA?

Amy K. - Duck is a great idea. It's dang tasty when it's cooked well.

Rachel B. - Nice! So happy it worked out for you!

Anon - Crap! I get them confused almost as much as Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman. It's been changed.

Thanks, you guys!

Chocoholic said...

Mmmm, this looks good. If you do this again, I heartily recommend Jamie Oliver's roasted chicken receipes. Both the Perfect Roast Chicken and one he did with some lemon, butter and herbs spread under the skin. A tip I found for seperating the skin on the chickens breast to season between it and the meat is to use a fondue fork to seperate it. It's a slightly gross thought but...after seeing plastic surgury shows I realized the fondue fork looked like the tool they use on there to seperate the skin and muscle layers.

MCM Voices said...

This is such a great, inspiring post!!

I was keen to try this experiment and although I didn't prepare for it as well as you did, and although it didn't stretch to 5 days because there are 4 of us and I think we're greedier than you and the BF, it was all great fun and very tasty!

I roasted the chicken the way I usually do - rub it with a combination of salt, paprika, thyme, pepper and a bit of cayenne and toss it in the oven for a couple hours at 350 F and baste occasionally. Served with a salad of spinach, lettuce, crumbled feta, chopped pecans and chopped pear, balsamic vinaigretted.

Day 2 was Chicken Curry in a Hurry. Yum!! That was a big hit. There was enough left over for a modest lunch.

Day 3 I paid homage to Marcella Hazan since I had spurned her lemon chicken recipe: I made her creamy zucchini with fusilli from her Classic Italian Cooking, and substituted chicken for the zucchini. There was just enough for 4 of us.

Day 4 There was enough chicken left to use as a sort of garnish in something, or maybe to make enchiladas, and since I did cook the carcass on Day 1 and had some very good stout broth, I was planning to make a cream of carrot soup on Day 5. However, my kids are sick and chicken soup seemed like the thing, so I ended up combining Days 4 and 5 with a cream of chicken soup with vegetables and rice, along the lines of and adding rice to it.

The chicken was on sale for 99 cents a pound so it cost me just under $7, and I had all the ingredients for the other stuff already. Normally the leftover chicken from the roast would have just gone into chicken salad or straight into sandwiches, so I loved doing this and really thinking about how to stretch this bird. Thank-you so much for your post.


Kris said...

Mary, that rules! So happy it worked for you guys!

Amanda said...

Absolutely brilliant! Thanks for sharing this one!

Jessica said...

I am bookmarking this! Great ideas, never know what to do with leftover chicken and now I do. THANKS!

taralynn819 said...

We finished up a "Charles" of our own just today! Only, I wasn't super creative about different meals. Basically, we ate chicken, rice, and a veggie for three nights.

Meanwhile, the rest of the meat froze for a week, with which I turned into a mother-of-a-kettle of chicken noodle soup. We ate on that for five whole days.

We should have polished it off sooner, but the first day Hubby got stomach sick and the third we took a day trip. But that's a whole lot of nights I didn't have to cook!

So here I am today scouring your site for a dinner idea for tonight...

Karen Datko said...

I did my chicken the Marcella Hazan way and it was truly the best roasted chicken I've ever made. I've also tried the peanut and noodles recipe but used beef. Incredibly delicious. I'm defrosting another chicken to roast and I'll make it again with my leftover chicken. It's that good. Yum. Thanks so much, Kris.

Betsy said...

Loved this post--I do "rubber chicken" at least twice a month and, like you, avoid the higher-fat leftover dishes. We throw the leftover chicken into stir-fry, a wicked variety of soups (and I ALWAYS make stock--if you've flavored your roast chicken nicely, you don't have to add anything else to that stockpot besides water and a bit of salt), wraps with salad greens/vinaigrette/etc. etc. etc. I'm linking this to my blog--hope that's okay!

website design nyc said...

nice post

Anonymous said...

Did the last recipe today. They were really great. We fed four people (well, three and a half, my picky night year old ate a lot of PB&J this week) off one chicken - with leftovers most nights.

Changes - I'd stretch the chili with another can of beans if I made it again - we managed to feed three with it, but it was the only 'sparse' meal.

I made the Asian noodles with rice noodles instead of spaghetti (gluten issues). Turned out great.

If I redid the week I'd make the chicken pecadillo last. The rest of the recipes I picked through the best parts of "Charles" - since the chicken is ground for chicken pecadillo it would be the best recipe to use the 'edible but not attractive' bits.

Julia Mangan said...

I love this post!

Health Remedies said...

Awesome, I'm fallen in love with you.

Anonymous said...

Roast Chicken-- HUGE success: i.e. moist and delicious, my smoke alarm did not go off (always seems to when I do something like that in the oven, even when things are perfectly fine), and I followed the suggestion and threw some potatoes and carrots underneath--OMG...not the healthiest option, but they were absolutely amazing and worth every gram of chicken fat.

The picadillo was not a hit with my family (21 m, 3 1/2, 5, and hubby)although I happily ate it. Everyone loved the chili (I added the peppers to the adults only), and my husband and I LOVED the chicken curry in a hurry (only ones home that night). I roasted one 3 pound chicken and used another 3 pounder to cook for stock because the deal of the week was on the small ones. For the stock, I just pull it apart after an hour or so to save the meat and returning bones to pot to cook for three or four more hours so I could roast one for dinner and make stock all at once.

We didn't have enough chicken to make the noodles, but I was still impressed that it went as far as it did. Next time I'll probably get (3) 3-pounders and roast two, one for stock. But my family is bigger than most.

THANKS! Most fun I've had in the kitchen in a while, minus the dishes :) Used to cook well all the time but am just now getting back into it after "baby" #3...your blog is very inspiring. This is an excellent post!

Anonymous said...

oh, and yes, another can of beans for the chili is needed.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog on accident while looking for a chicken recipe for some boneless, skinless chicken I had thawed. I therefore, had to skip your first meal but have tried them all and am trying to decide whick to try again! They were wonderful. Thanks for your great blog. We appreciate it. Thanks!!

Кино онлайн бесплатно без смс said...

As always wonderful. Added to bookmarks.

Andrew said...

I just came across this post on BoingBoing, right after I roasted a chicken last Sunday and made two more meals for 4 from the same bird. That's 12 meals from one bird, so not quite as many as you got, but I wasn't challenging myself! Roasted stuffed chicken with herb butter on Sunday, Buffalo Chicken Pizza on Tuesday, and a very large pot of Zesty Chicken Noodle soup on Friday. I am still eating the soup, so perhaps it's closer to 15 meals. Not as healthy as you, but if you want to see the recipes they are on my blog:
Will be following you more closely now! Drew

evilsciencechick said...

Boil the bones with some wilted veggies to make a stock! It will be kind of weak with only one carcass, but still good for a meal of soup one night and some risotto the next.

All excellent recipes, though. What a cool experiment :)

Megan said...

You might know by now that you got posted to Boing Boing today-- but congrats anyway! I love your site and have bookmarked it. I'll be looking for more cheap recipes (and humor) in the future!

Anonymous said...

Uh, oh. Here comes Debbie Downer. I really suggest everyone read Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book, Eating Animals. I'm not posting here to preach morality. It is not possible to have a Perdue chicken and the term "healthy" inhabit the same space. Not possible. Perdue, like any other factory farm, produces Frankenstein food. The chickens are genetically engineered, fed substances (hormones, antibiotics, animal "byproducts") we wouldn't allow our dogs and cats to eat, and after slaughter their meat is pumped up with saline water. I'm not making this up. This is what the industry admits to. To the authors of this blog, I love 95 percent of what you post, but this chicken recipe needs to advocate for family farmed chicken.

SF Legend said...

"twenty-six dollars bucks"

Eeyore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This was an awesome post. Any chance you can repeat the experiment with beef or fish or some kind? I'm highly allergic to poultry. I'm not much of a cook either, so would the above recipes work with beef?

Anonymous said...


A couple of points.

1. The curry recipe. Raisins in a curry are a cardinal sin. A generic curry powder is no substitute for the real thing and it is sooo easy to make it yourself.

2. Tinned produce? Beans. These are way more expensive than dried. IF you do not have one, get a pressure cooker and use that to cook them quickly and/or soak overnight. These devices are invaluable for cooking (the best being Fissler from Germany - mine is 12 years young and used a couple of times a week - which although expensive is worth every cent and still going strong).

3. In another post you mention that olive oil is good due to its high smoke point. Please note that this is INCORRECT. Olive oil is an unrefined oil and typically has a smoke point of 350F or lower. For the other olive oils the trace elements left after the use of solvents can become carcinogenic. Therefore it should not be used in any cooking where the base temperature is > 350F. Far better to use peanut, canola, safflower, or soy which are refined and are far better suited to this.

4. The chicken carcass. Using a pressure cooker you can extract so much flavor and goodness PLUS the bones will become soft and can easily be ground down for inclusion as part of a dog's diet.

Matthew said...

This is great. Just Great.

Kurt C. said...

Great article, but you lose points fo rusing the term "butt-naked". The term is BUCK naked, not butt.

urpwnd said...

great article and great ideas, however...

please people.. get off the "fat is bad" bandwagon. this has been proven, conclusively, with science.

excessive carbs from bad sources is where you need to be careful. carbs = sugars = you getting fat.

check this out.

Debunking Popular Fat Myths

Anonymous said...

Awesom ... too bad u have a boyfriend already :)

Kim Siever said...

Why not just portion and freeze your meat? Then you don’t need to worry about racing through it all.

GreenStockings said...

We did the same sorta deal with our holiday turkey this year - I *did* make stock out of the bones, which is still becoming things now, as I froze it all in single cup servings.

Granted, we did end up making lots and lots of turkey sandwiches, because we love them, and they don't take much prep work.

Johnny R. (Austin, TX) said...

Great recipes and a great blog, but one thing that comes to mind is that most of the savings comes from buying a "factory farmed" chicken. These birds are cheap for a reason--all possible corners are cut to save money and mostly the chicken pays with crowded conditions, crippled legs, no sunlight, living in its own feces etc.
I would do the same recipes as the blog but with a free range bird. I buy one every 1-2 weeks and it costs about $11 for a 4LB bird at Whole Foods. And if you haven't done this at least once you owe it to yourself because the taste is amazing, it's very "chickeny" as Julia Child says. Also if you need a bird bigger than 3.5-4LB it's best to buy 2 smaller birds to ensure tender, tasty meat.

Sally said...

love it!! I just happen to have a large chicken in my freezer from the weekend and I think I already have all the staples from your grocery list in my pantry so we are so on for tomorrow's dinner. I also posted your link on a couple of my blogs so others could get the same benefit. I hope that was ok. I should have asked first. If it is a problem email me at smilesonly at shaw dot ca and I will remove. Sally

Shel said...

Overall, great post! Thanks for the great information! Five days is a little on the outside for freshness/safety issues. USDA recommends 3-4 days, without broth or gravy. Broth or gravy is only good 1-2 days because of bacteria growth.

The best idea is freeze it in portions, as someone suggested, or use a couple of the meals for lunches. The Chicken Chili should freeze really well for later use. When freezing, though, make sure to freeze it the same day you cooked it. The freshness timer doesn't start over just because it's been frozen once.

Anonymous said...

Im really excited about your blog, our family is passing some economic troubled times and this will certainly help. Thankyou so much!

lyd said...

that was fun - thanks!

Yo Prinzel said...

This is fantastic. Thanks to you and your family for being our guinea pigs!

Melissa said...

This post is amazing! Im bookmarking it right now. I also have a cooking blog, maybe you could use some of my recipes in coming trials!

In Real Life said...

Awesome! I can't wait to try this!

Anonymous said...

Found this via Lifehacker - great post thank you! I save up all the chicken carcasses for making stock, I just bung them in the freezer until I have a sufficient number to make it worthwhile. One other comment...I suspect that 'he' is actually a 'she' and 'Charles' is more likely to be 'Charlene', not many chickens that you buy in supermarkets will be!

Anonymous said...

what it comes down to is portion size of meat. people tend to be accustomed to 6 oz of meat per meal, whereas most humans only nutritionally require about 3-4 oz of meat protein over a whole day. (this is not to say protein can't be obtained from other sources, it's just to point out portion sizes where meat is concerned.) so, if you have 36 - 40 oz. of meat, you should be able to feed two adults for five days...

dennis said...

wish it wasnt a chicken from a factory farm. might bring you a bit more over budget, but a chicken that lived as natural a life as possible is better for you and certainly tastes (according to my diligent scientific studies) 1023 times better. aces to the rest of the article

Mark said...


Ted Rex said...

This is just amazing. I featured this page as one of my three links today on my Other Thought for the Day blog:

All the best, Ted

Anonymous said...

"Will you marry me instead?!"

Your boyfriend is one lucky guy!

Anonymous said...

Carbs are NOT unhealthful,per se.You just need to move around and use them up.Any kind of meat, however has certain drawbacks,such as taking much longer to pass through the digestive system than non-meat foods.Sad that the special interests have succeeded in brainwashing people into believing meat is healthful.

The Estrogen Files said...

Queen of the menu, you are! Thanks for this awesome use of money and chicken. Wonder how many chix I'd have to buy for my family of 7?

Ranee @ Arabian Knits said...

So, you could have gotten SIX meals if you'd made soup with the bones! Way to go! This would make about two or three meals for my family of eight if we ate the roast chicken as roast chicken. If I just took the meat off and used it right off the bat, I could probably get four or five meals.

Anonymous said...

I almost never roast a whole chicken because no one in my house likes dark meat. I will roast 3-4 chicken breasts and shred the meat. I do save the bones for stock. I put them in a bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, I make stock.

I often make Ina Garten's chicken stew which she uses to make chicken with biscuits and chicken pot pie. I've made the chicken and biscuits, also chicken and dumplings and chicken and noodles. The stew takes me back to my childhood.

The cafeteria at the last place I worked made a chicken and dressing casserole -- it was one of the best things they made. It was just as it sounds -- chicken in dressing. I like to make it because I almost always have the ingredients -- chicken, bread, onions, celery, some kind of stock. Serve with a vegetable and maybe a salad.

With the exception of the curry, all of the recipes you picked sound like winners for my family. I might do chicken enchiladas or Giada De Laurentiis' Italian Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups (no mayo!) or a stir fry of some kind.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. I relayed it over to my food science blog for others to read. Check it out and maybe you'll find something else that interests you.

~* Aria *~ said...

Wow, I wish food was so cheap here. $1.99 per pound of red or Yukon potatoes. Lemons are 50 cents each on a sale week. Etc..

Campbell said...

The chili was good. Mine was slightly different due to a quick grab. I accidently bought vegetable broth instead if chicken broth. It was still good though -- lower calorie and lower sodium.

Anonymous said...

Great blog entry - I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes out! But a SEVEN POUND chicken? Unnatural, & seriously undercutting the healthy vibe.

carly said...

Thanks for the great idea! Your mileage may vary on the cost, though: my total came to $43.28 not counting ingredients I already had in the house, or $54.71 for all ingredients. The main difference is the cost of the chicken; organic chicken costs $4.75/lb here, and I've never seen ANY chicken, organic or battery farmed, much below $2/lb. My cost breakdown was:

7-lb chicken (organic): $33.25
Olive oil (organic): $0.36
Red potatoes (organic): $2
Red onions (organic): $2
Peanuts: $0.24
Slivered almonds: $0.60
Cilantro: $0.69
Green onions: $0.69
Curry powder: $0.07
Ginger root: $0.12
Cumin: $0.05
Jalapeno: $0.06
Salsa: $1.75
Yoghurt: $0.41
Cucumber: $0.99
Other ingredients: already present in my kitchen

Cost/meal: $3.22

Even if this isn't a particularly cheap series of meals for me, it's still an excellent way to use up a chicken!

Sally said...

I just finished my last meal :) It was a lot of fun to do :) I have shared this part of your blog on my blog as well as shared it with family and friends. My grocery bill also was higher. I live in Metro Vancouver BC Canada so that might have made a difference. My chicken also was only 5 pounds so only got 4 actual meals but am simmering my carcass right now for chicken noodle and vegetable soup so technically I did get 5 meals. My husband HATES peanut sauce but he loved the Asian noodle meal although I served it hot. He gave the Chicken Picadillo a 9 out of 10!! My husband is a meat and potato man so this was a great recommendation! I look forward to checking your site frequently for more ideas! Thanks :)

nka said...

Wonderful work. However, I don't count 17 meals. 5 days dinner, 5 days lunch....something doesn't add up. What am I missing?

MommyNamedApril said...

great work! i roast whole chickens with potatoes and veggies and then make individual meals and stick them in the deep freeze. i generally make four (large) meals per chicken (2 light meat, 2 dark meat) and then use the bones for stock.

Brandy said...

This was an excellent article that inspired me! My husband has been telling me for weeks that we needed to trim down our grocery bill and this article was just what I needed to get me started! I don't think I'll ever pay the outrageous prices for boneless skinless chicken breasts again.

Anonymous said...

i'm wondering how long you could stretch a turkey? a whole month?

Froex trader said...

This is perfect article, especially the way it's written and presented it's just perfect. Great tips on low budgeted healthy food items. I have book marked your site in my favourites list, by the way chicken is my favourite food.

Range Cookers said...

In today's tough economic times, I love to read articles about feeding a family on a budget, especially since our family seems to keep growing every two years.

epic4tan said...

This bit the same with our holiday turkey last year - I *did* make stock out of the bones, which is still becoming things now, as I froze it all in single cup servings.


IntraMax said...

White Chicken Chili looks awesome. Might try to make it for the chili cook off coming up next week.

Heath the Great Cheap Protein Eater said...

okay i absolutely loved this post! I didn't realize that chicken could strecth so many ways. I just think of all the money that is watsed at fast food restaurants on a regular basis just due to the average person thinking that they don't have any time to cook. After reading this post i am excited to actually try and make one of 2 of these myself. I especially look forward to the mexican plate:)

I have been looking over your blog and it is chock full of useful information. I appreciate your time and effort spent on it. Keep up the good work.

JD said...

This post was awesome !

thank you very much for the tips ;)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how little you Americans spend for food. $2.29 for a whole already cooked (labour) chicken? And the cost of the groceries, I would have to triple it here.

Rotisserie chicken $9, 7 on sale, but very small both of them. Three lbs tops. Greasy.

Fresh chicken 7 lbs? At least $30. And no it's not organic.

I think you could leave in the line about the peas. It may not apply to peas, but your costs are why it applies to people who raise everything we eat.

Other than that, I am impressed by your abilities, and I've been cooking like that for over 50 years, so I get to call it: 8/10. Two points lost for not making broth.

Mrs. Querido said...

I just found your blog today and I LOVE the way you write! Great sense of humor and wonderful sounding recipes! Awesome blog :)

Jessica from Jones OK said...

Thank you so much for this post! I bought all of the ingredients for about $26. Funny thing is I couldn't find a whole chicken at the store. I bought 10 lbs of leg quarters instead for $6.

I'm cooking them tonight and then I'll divide up the meat and freeze portions of it.

My budget is tight this month, so this will help me get by.

Lauren said...

This post is AWESOME! I have made the Sesame Noodles and curry 3 times each now! even if I don't have leftover chicken from something, I'll just boil a couple frozen chicken breasts and shred them up. Thanks for suggesting something besides chicken casseroles!

Kara Richter said...

I love your white chicken chili recipe! One of the best I have used. Great post on the thousands of uses for a chicken, I really enjoyed it thinking of what my grandma used to do out of necessity seventy years ago.

ann lee r said...

LOVE the idea, but here in Canada that 7 lb. chicken would cost at least $25. ... no cheap bird!!
ann lee r

PoeticCrayon said...

LOVE this post! I'm usually a scroll-through-the-pictures kinda gal but I read every word of this! More please! I love the way you cook and write!

Amy said...

Yes! No Mayo! No Cream of (whatever) Soup and No Ranch!! Love it! I buy the cooked whole chickens in the store and I am always looking for things to cook with the chicken. Now if I could only cook my own chicken....

Anonymous said...

Love this idea! We cooked a turkey on the weekend and portioned out the leftovers. I made the chili and picadillo and put it in the freezer for later. Had the noodle salad last night (used tahini instead of p.b) - LOVED IT! Curry tonight. I also made a casserole (with a homemade cream base) and some turkey pasties for the freezer. Oh, and I used the carcass for a great broth.
Have you thought about doing something similar with beef or pork roast?

Kathleen said...

I just wanted to say that I saved this link to your blog YEARS ago, and finally this week got to use it. I had seven people coming for Christmas, staying for a week, and I had very little money.
So I bought one chicken, some potatoes, carrots, lemons, a couple other things -- less than your $26 -- and made 17 meals. The chicken picadillo was the biggest hit. I also boiled the bones and made so much stock that I used it for FOUR full meals. Since I was cooking for larger groups, I did the roasted chicken on day one (when we had just 4 people eating) and chicken piccadillo on day two (also for 4 people) and then chicken & barley soup for 7 people, which was dumb -- I could've made it with noodles instead and it would've been tastier and cheaper. Now I have 3/4s of a box of barley. Humph. Anyway, that soup used up some of the stock and most of the chicken, but I had some left, which I included in a chicken and broccoli casserole. I also needed stock for other meals, and this saved me having to buy it. Fabulous. You ROCK. Thank you very, very much.